NATO chief pushes to let Ukraine strike Russian soil with allied weapons

In a recent interview with The Economist, Stoltenberg said “the time has come” for NATO nations to consider abandoning territorial limits they had placed on Kyiv’s use of their weapons systems against Russian forces.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has ignited controversy by arguing that Western allies should lift restrictions preventing Ukraine from using their donated arms to hit targets inside Russia, dramatically escalating the scope of the conflict.

In a recent interview with The Economist, Stoltenberg said “the time has come” for NATO nations to consider abandoning territorial limits they had placed on Kyiv’s use of their weapons systems against Russian forces.

Stoltenberg noted that some allies have already quietly lifted such constraints, though he declined to specify which countries, prompting speculation he was referring to longstanding U.S. prohibitions.

His provocative remarks stoked fierce criticism from Moscow, which has long accused the U.S. and its NATO partners of being de facto combatants by flooding Ukraine with advanced Western arms and intelligence. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov flatly rejected the notion of any restrictions, claiming American munitions like cluster bomb-armed ATACMS missiles have already struck civilian areas inside Russia.

The NATO leader’s push to enable cross-border strikes represents a dramatic potential escalation after more than a year of holding the line to avoid an open war between Russia and the U.S.-led military bloc. It also follows a steady rhetorical shift from Western leaders who initially ruled out giving Kyiv the capability to attack Russian soil, before later providing heavy weapons able to do so while officially prohibiting such use.

But as Ukraine’s counteroffensives sputtered in recent months against dogged Russian resistance, calls have grown louder in some allied capitals to remove remaining restrictions and allow Kyiv to take the fight directly to Russia, potentially hitting command centres, supply lines and other strategic targets.

The New York Times reported this week that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pushed internally to lift the U.S. prohibitions during a secretive White House deputies meeting. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators recently sent a letter to the Pentagon urging it to give the green light to Kyiv based on their “destroyed cities and horrific civilian casualties from Russian missiles” unleashed on Ukraine.

Still, Stoltenberg’s high-profile push for escalation suggests a potential looming fissure between the U.S. and some European allies over the conflict’s outer boundaries as Ukraine braces for a renewed Russian offensive in the east. As one NATO official warned: “Giving Kyiv a blank check to strike Russia risks making the whole alliance a combatant in this war.”

As the bitter fighting grinds on with no diplomatic solution in sight, the NATO chief’s calculated provocation spotlights the deepening quandary allies face over how to aid Ukraine’s self-defence without potentially triggering full-scale war with Russia.